Coneygree team look to future after gutsy comeback
Coneygree has conquered many frontiers but the combination of a long absence and an on-song Cue Card proved too great a challenge at Haydock on Saturday.
Not to be deterred, the 2015 Gold Cup hero's team are already plotting revenge over the brilliant Betfair Chase winner and Sara Bradstock, wife and assistant of trainer Mark, said: "We'll be back and he won't beat us again."
Returning from a year off recovering from a hock injury, Coneygree assumed his customary front-running role and stayed there until being headed by a sweet-travelling Cue Card four out.
The writing was on the wall at that stage as his rival eased into a clear lead, but while Coneygree's unbeaten chase record was lost, confidence for future battles can be gleaned from the way he stuck to his task up the home straight on tiring ground.
"We couldn't have ask for more," added Bradstock. "You've got to remember there has been no soft ground to train him on and the other horses were race-fit.
"This is not just coming back after a year, it's coming back on a surface he's not ready for. It's his favourite surface in the long run but he's had to do all his work on the all-weather."
A rematch with Cue Card could come in the 32Red King George VI Chase, for which Coneygree remained a best-priced 6-1. However, a surprise alternative target emerged in the post-race debrief.
"As long as he comes out of that feeling well and happy I suspect we'll go for the King George, but they're trying to tempt us over to Ireland for the Lexus Chase and it's not out of the question."
Richard Johnson, aboard in the absence of injured regular rider Nico de Boinville, was delighted with Coneygree's performance.
"I thought he ran a fantastic race," said the champion jockey. "He jumped great, travelled well and did everything bar win.
"He got tired three out but, as with Cue Card at Wetherby, the other horses had had races this season. You'd have to be happy and the race will bring him on for the King George if they chose to go there."